• Caitlin Mary Parker Allen

Summer Astronomy Series: Viewing the Sturgeon Supermoon

The final supermoon of 2022 is the Sturgeon Supermoon – read all about its meaning and how to best observe it


Sturgeon Supermoon On The Rise - Photo Credit: Erik McLean


 

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After an action-packed celestial calendar this Summer, the final Supermoon of 2022 will be the perfect way to cap off the schedule of heavenly phenomena. If you have been following our Supermoon series through the June Strawberry Supermoon and the July Buck Supermoon, or if you are new to astronomical observation, you won’t want to miss the Sturgeon Supermoon this Thursday, August 11th!


Sunset Over Mesquite Sand Dunes in Death Valley - Photo Credit: Caitlin Mary Parker Allen

Summer may be coming to an end, but fear not - there is still plenty of time and plenty of reasons to get outdoors and enjoy the nice weather, including this week when you can experience the Sturgeon Supermoon. This full moon will peak at 6:35pm PST on August 11th, so read on to see how you can make the most of it.

 

What is a Sturgeon?


  • Sturgeons are a species of fish that can live up to 60 years, measure up to 22 feet long and weigh up to 1,800 pounds!

  • There are 29 species of Sturgeons native to the Northern Hemisphere, found in oceans, lakes and rivers.

  • As Sturgeons have undergone relatively few evolutionary changes over the last 419 million years, they are considered primitive fish (and look kinda creepy if you ask me!)

  • Large species of Sturgeons can swallow whole salmon, despite having no teeth!

  • Sturgeon species are endangered due to exploitation from commercial fisherman for their high quality roe, used in caviar.


A Biggol' Sturgeon - Photo Credit: Tennessee Aquarium



The naming of the August full moon draws from Algonquin tribes native to Eastern North America, who relied on sturgeon spawning in the Great Lakes for sustenance in the late Summertime. Though their abundance has greatly declined, there is still an opportunity to observe the spawning season of the largest fish in North America. There are many places across the US where you can find them, including California, the Midwest, and the Great Lakes regions.


Make sure to plan an overnight trip to attempt to find populations undamaged from local urban centers, and to properly take advantage of this final Supermoon of 2022. If you plan to try dispersed camping this August to escape the hustle of popular campsites, make sure to comply with federal guidelines! (Read all about how to prepare for a dispersed camping trip here)

 

Supermoon off the coast of Santa Cruz, CA - Photo Credit: Gabriel Tovar



Where Does the Sturgeon Supermoon Name Come From?


While the sturgeon populations native to the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain in North America inspired the honorific commonly used today for the August moon, cultures across the globe have drawn inspiration from the world around them to label this phenomenon. Some of these alternate names include…


  • The Celts refer to the August full moon as the Lynx Moon, named after the glowing eyes of the Lynx.

  • Anglo Saxon culture has many names for this moon according to various natural processes occurring in the month of August, including Corn Moon and Lightning Moon.

  • In Māori culture, while the moon does not have a specific title, it falls in the month of Mahuru on their lunar calendar, named for the Earth beginning to warm as the Southern Hemisphere transitions from Winter to Spring.

  • Also following Southern Hemisphere climate conditions, the Zulu tribe in South Africa refer to this month as uNcwaba, for a man returning from an extended trip, as with Springs return.

  • Other Native American tribes throughout the country have a variety of names for the full moon of August, including Harvest Moon, Black Cherries Moon, Ricing Moon, Flying Up Moon and Mountain Shadows Moon.

  • In parts of Southeast Asia, the month is celebrated with the Hungry Ghost Festival, honoring the spirits of the dead with opera, incense and paper money burning, and dragon dances.

 

Saturn - Photo Credit: NASA



How and Where do I View the Sturgeon Supermoon?


We see full moons when the sun and moon are on opposite sides of our planet. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, at around 9pm PST on August 11th, 2022, the moon will pass by the south of Saturn by only 4º. This means they will be on the same celestial longitude and thus be in conjunction.


If you have sharp eyes (or a telescope) and are looking towards the skies that night, you may be able to see the constellation of Capricorn surrounding them - however the bright light of the planetary conjunction will likely wash it out.


Instead, try casting your eyes toward the constellation of Taurus, where you may be able to catch a glimpse of Mars, with its distinctive red coloring. Mars will rise just after 9pm PST. Mercury, Jupiter and Venus will also be visible, from around 6pm, 1am and 1:30am respectively.

 

Space, The Final Frontier - Photo Credit: Jeremy Thomas



If you want the full experience of stargazing for this Sturgeon Supermoon, we at Pathloom would recommend cowboy camping, where you sleep without a tent, directly underneath the stars... Although, if you’re anything like me, you may struggle to stay awake long enough to see Venus out in the tranquility of nature!


Between the Supermoon and the various planets shining on August 11th, you might have had your cosmic fill… but for enthusiasts out there, the Perseid meteor shower will also be active! In 2022 this stunning display of ice and rock swirling around our earth has been visible since mid July, until the end of August, and peaks the same night as our Sturgeon Supermoon (as well as the day after on the 12th). This is one of the most popular meteor showers for viewing, so pack some coffee and get out there to see what all the fuss is about... and keep your fingers crossed that the light of the full moon doesn’t wash out any hopes of seeing the meteors!


Cowboy Camping in Utah - Photo Credit: Evan Sanchez



As we embark on our last month of exciting Summer days, long Summer evenings, and balmy Summer nights, don’t let yourself get stuck into a Summer rut. The next Supermoon the world will get to experience won’t be until July 2023, so get outside, surround yourself with the natural wonders our country has to offer, and don’t miss the last Supermoon of 2022, the Sturgeon Supermoon!


 

The moons may have come and gone, but the information Caitlin wrote about them is still fascinating! Check out Part 1 of our Summer Astronomy Series about Supermoons - June's Strawberry Supermoon, and Part 2 about July's Buck Supermoon!


 

Find a dispersed campsite near National Park land. Learn a new camping recipe, or get tips to enhance your thruhiking. Be among the first to get exclusive stories, trail reports and more from our growing team of experienced campers, backpackers, thru hikers, and fellow adventure lovers.



 

Do you have any great night sky photography you'd like to share with us? Send a photo to blog@pathloom.com, or connect with us on Social Media for a chance to be featured in an upcoming post!

 

Check out these other articles by Pathloom which you may enjoy:

Summer Astronomy Series: The Strawberry Supermoon of June 2022

Summer Astronomy Series: How To See the Buck Supermoon July 13, 2022

2022 Guide to Upcoming Planetary Conjunctions

Riley's Gap Year: Adventures in Skiing and Wildland Firefighting

The Call of The Road

The Medicinal Value of Camping Alone

The Glory of Yosemite

Very Superstitious: Phoenix In The Fall


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